The Power of Kennedy’s Voice

Blog arrow-right 29 February 2024
Author: Irene Ngolo

In a world often clouded by challenges, Kennedy Ochieng Gumba stands a beacon of resilience and determination. Visually impaired from a young age, Kennedy’s commanding tone and unwavering spirit tells a story of strength that goes beyond physical sight.

Hailing from the interior Seme Village in Kisumu County- Kenya, Kennedy’s journey is one of triumph over adversity. Raised by his grandmother in the absence of his parents, he became a champion not just for himself but for an entire community.

He never had a chance to see the grandmother who raised him but through him, his extended family and villagers can see the light and live comfortably by what they say as Kennedy being their champion and a defender, who is never deprived by his disability but using every opportunity he gets to explore his potential.

Despite the challenges of his upbringing, Kennedy has excelled academically and personally, proving himself to be a resilient and motivated individual. His inspiring journey is a testament to the power of perseverance and determination in the face of adversity.

Journey through adversity

The thirty-year-old father of one narrated to me how he lost his sight at a young age due to inaccessible, unavailable, and unaffordable quality health care because of poverty. They reside in the village outskirts, where the only source of income is farming, knitting mats, and fishing since they are close to Lake Victoria. Most people in his area do not easily access healthcare due to poor infrastructure and even poor network connections to the health facilities in times of emergencies.

Struggle with sight loss

“Before I lost my parents, they told to me how I lost my sight due to measles infection, at the age of two years. This happened because they did not have the money to take me to the hospital for proper treatment since my eyes were to be operated on. As a result, it got worse and that is how I lost my sight and have never seen anything to this day”, Ochieng described.

One would be eager to understand how he could manage to beat all odds and even gain the vast knowledge he has on various aspects of life.

“Even though my parents were poor, they valued my education and they worked hard to ensure that I was enrolled in an integrated school which was hard to cope in. There were no Special Needs teachers for the learners with disability”, Ochieng explained.

Educational challenges

Kennedy said that even though he met an able teacher who gave him support in his preschool. It did not take long before the teacher retired and his enrollment in the school would all be in vain, since she was the only one knowledgeable one in special needs.

“I was then transferred to St. Oda Aluor School for the visually impaired, in the hands of Sister Hellen Piers. She later handed me over to Sister Leonora Anyango in her transfer. At that time, I got sponsored by Liliane Fonds and to this day I am still grateful for the support they have given me. This was around the time I lost my parents”, Kennedy said.

Through hard work and resilience, he was able to finish his secondary education and could even hope to proceed to higher learning since he had the determination to change the lives of his family and other siblings. He was able to join college and studied, Community Development and Social Work, a course which he could not finish due to lack of school fees.

Discovering Make Way

“I joined the Make Way Consortium through St. Francis Oriang’, a local partner organization for CDSK, which recommended me to Liliane Fonds in their quest for a Regional Council for Persons with Disabilities youth representative – the Make Way Programme.

Before engaging in Make Way activities, I was not aware that persons with disabilities can have access to quality Sexual and Reproductive Health care services. Through the Make Way Program I have felt that I have a voice that must be listened to despite my disability”, Kennedy said.

Empowered by Make Way

“Through the educational support I have gotten from Liliane Fonds and also the diverse knowledge I have gained from the Make Way Programme, I am well informed, and even youths from my village see me as their ambassador and as their champion because of how firm I stand for the rights of persons with disabilities in our county.

I have been able to take part in Make Way activities like the intersectional budget advocacy training, and intersectional community scorecard processes, whereby my voice has to be heard as a person with a disability. Even in the county public participation I have to be called to give my voice because through Make way I have learned that persons with disabilities require to access information in all matters of development since our input matters”, he added.

Active advocacy in the community

Kennedy is a very active member of County Policing through Chief Barazas in his home sub County, where he speaks for persons with disabilities besides being part of the advocacy Committee of SRHR in the Make Way program and also a member of the Advocacy Committee under the Anglican Development Services where in all these he represents persons with disabilities.

Impact on family

His lovely wife, Gorrety Atieno, could not hide her joy while describing his partner, Kennedy. Gorrety described Kennedy as a hardworking, disciplined man and their family’s bedrock:

“In the past, we could only depend on porridge as a whole day meal, but nowadays we can even take milk tea, we have solar lighting in our home unlike in the past when we could use paraffin lamps. All this is because of the dedication in Kennedy, to ensure that he puts a smile on our faces even though he cannot see us but we love him for the great impact he has on people’s lives”, she explained.

She also added that as a young mother with a disability, she has been able to learn about her rights and access to SRH through Make Way ICSC processes, she has attended. Moreover, even the youths from their village know and talk of Make Way.

“Kennedy has a voice in this area, he can even call our area leaders, who will pick his calls and listen to him because he has his community at heart and has built connections with several stakeholders”, described by one of the youth participants.

“I wish to encourage persons with disabilities that their condition is not the end of the road, we all have God-given potential and what matters is how you stand out to explore it. Furthermore, parents should not hide children with disabilities inside their houses. These children have rights to quality education and can help shape our societies”, Kennedy concludes.

In her book “Dear Daughter: Short and Sweet Messages from a Queen”, Gift Mona says, “You are not defined by your past, your struggles, or your circumstances. You are defined by your strength, your kindness, and your ability to overcome.” This depicts Kennedy’s life story, irrespective of his lived experiences, he can stand out as a champion.


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